Altered Images

Premiere DateJul 21, 2015
00:00 Michael Kamber
02:28 Crisis of Credibility
03:56 Roger Fenton's Canon Ball
05:35 Standards
06:50 Grey Areas
09:50 Role of Photo Editors
12:37 Mission Accomplished
17:00 Eugene Smith
18:32 Confusion
21:29 Citizen Journalists
24:23 Obama Administration and Photojournalists
26:02 Propaganda
28:36 Public Atitudes
32:20 Finish

The Valley of the Shadow of Death (with cannonballs) by Roger Fenton, 1855

The Valley of the Shadow of Death (without canonballs) by Roger Fenton, 1855

Michael Kamber is a veteran photojournalist and founder of the Bronx Documentary Center. His is also  co-curator of the BDC’s new exhibition Altered Images: 150 Years of  Posed and Manipulated Documentary Photography.

The show comes at a time when Michael says the photojournalism profession faces a “crisis in credibility,” as illustrated by numerous high profile incidents of photographers staging images or manipulating their pictures excessively in photoshop. Just last year judges of the prestigious World Press Photo competition disqualified 20% of their semifinalists for altering their photographs. In this years competition the photographer Giovanni Troilo was disqualified for staging a photo of his cousin and his girlfriend having sex in a car.

In Michael’s  exhibition Altered images he puts these recent examples  in historical context, by placing them with some infamous fabrications from history. The show also looks at the ways that photo editors, totalitarian governments, and misleading captions can influence the meaning and news value of an image.

Last week I got a chance to chat with Michael over Skype about Altered images and how technology is changing public attitudes towards truth and credibility in news photography.

Spanish Wake, 1951, by W. Eugene Smith – Smith altered the women’s eyes in the darkroom to make the image more dramatic

Image depicting Stalin, circa 1930, with the cheif of the Soviet secret police, Nikolai Yezhov. Yezhov was arrested and executed for treason in 1940 and his image was retouched out of official photographs.

Charleroi, Belgum by Giovanni Trolio, 2014 – Trolio’s image was disqualified from the World Press Photo competition after it emerged that the image was staged.

Basra Iraq, March 30, 2003, photo by Brian Walksi,  – This image, taken during the beginning of the Iraq War and ran on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, was composited from two separate digital files. Walsi was fired for violating the paper’s code of ethics.


HOST Thomas
Thomas grew up in Northern California where he fell in love with music and photography while going to punk shows and shooting skate photos. He photography in college, which may or may not qualify him to host an…